A new long read blog issued today by NHS Providers – Testing and Tracing: 12 tests of winter – makes clear that NHS Test and Trace is a key weapon in the fight against coronavirus, but it has had a very difficult birth and there is a huge amount of work to be done before we can be confident it will meet the enormous challenges it will face this winter.

The document sets out a range of tests NHS Test and Trace will have to meet to be fit for purpose as demand for its services increases over winter.

These include quadrupling test capacity in three months; dramatically improving test turnaround times; creating a range of new testing facilities to enable those who need a test to get one closer to where they live and work and improving performance at every stage of the end to end contract tracing process.

it should ensure before winter arrives, the right balance between national and local control with more emphasis on greater local control

The document also highlights the government’s continuing failure to set out clear forward plans for regularly testing NHS staff.

It also expresses disappointment at the government’s recent failure to observe the basic principles of customer facing communications in the event of operational problems – acknowledge the problem, apologise, explain the reasons for the failure, set out what is being done to correct it and provide regular, open and honest progress updates.

Setting out the 12 key issues that need to be tackled, Chris Hopson said:

“An effective Test and Trace system is a key weapon in the fight against COVID. It is vital to protect our economy and help the NHS to continue to care for patients. It has to succeed and we all have a contribution to make to ensure that success. But the size of task facing NHS Test and Trace is about to increase significantly as winter approaches and we have to be sure that this key public service will be able to cope.

“That is why we have clearly set out what NHS trusts believe NHS Test and Trace needs to do to build, extend and improve its service. We can’t have a repetition of the problems of the last few weeks where NHS staff had to stay off work because they, or their family members, haven’t been able to access a test.

“NHS Test and Trace has been created from scratch, at incredible pace. Good progress was made between late May and August but the problems of the last few weeks have reinforced that it has a long way to go to be ready for winter.


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